The Masked Minnesotan

I wear a face mask when I go to a store or church: or any place where I’ll be near other folks. I do so because the COVID-19 pandemic is still in progress.

These days, wearing a mask in public could be a divisive act. Not wearing a mask could be a divisive act. Wearing the ‘wrong kind’ of mask could be a divisive act.

Writing about face masks, divisive acts, or both could be viewed as a divisive act, but I’ll risk it.

Maybe some folks wear face masks as a political display: showing their support for some politico, party or cause. Or don’t wear masks for the same reason(s).

That’s not my motive. I’m doing what I can to keep a highly infectious and occasionally lethal disease from spreading. Or at least slow it down.

I’d rather not be dealing with a pandemic.

But like it or not, the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus has been and is killing folks. Some of them uncomfortably close to my home. I live in Stearns County. Long Prairie is maybe 20 minutes up the road.

Still, as the old Minnesota saying goes, it could be worse.

I could be subjected to mask shaming.

A “Senseless Dividing Line”

(From Evan Vucci/AP, via MPR, used w/o permission.)

North Dakota governor delivers plea against ‘mask shaming’
The Associated Press, MPR News Staff; MPR (May 23, 2020)

“North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum is asking residents to avoid ‘mask shaming’ people who are wearing protective gear because of the coronavirus.

“The Republican governor and ardent supporter of President Trump said during a Friday news briefing that people who choose to wear masks deserve ‘support and encouragement’ because they may be protecting someone who is vulnerable to the virus.

“He pleaded with residents to avoid what he called a ‘senseless dividing line’ over the use of masks….”

Maybe I haven’t been ‘mask shamed’ because I’m related by marriage to nearly half the folks in my town.

Or because I haven’t earned a reputation for ardent support of any political personality or party. Mild support, yes. Occasionally. Unyielding, unqualified zeal? Not so much.

Maybe “mask shaming” is a strictly North Dakota issue. My guess is that it’s not. The term might be. But the way folks in other states have been reacting to unpleasant realities suggests that hotheads, fanatics and crackpots are endemic pretty much everywhere.

“Empathy and Understanding”

Maybe being angry, expressing (self) righteous indignation, feels good.

That might help explain why so many folks seem so angry over so much.

But before I start ranting about folks getting angry about stuff that doesn’t enrage me, I’ll get back to something North Dakota’s Governor Burgum said.

“…’If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID and are fighting.’

“Burgum called on people to treat others who choose to wear masks amid the pandemic to be treated with empathy and understanding….”
(The Associated Press, MPR News Staff; MPR, (May 23, 2020))

Treating others “with empathy and understanding” makes sense to me. Particularly in this context, where I’m one of ‘those people’ who wear face masks in public.

Masks and Motives

Being called a “sheeple” is the closest I’ve come to being mask shamed. (May 23, 2020)

The open-face advocate — the discussion had nothing to do with sandwiches — said that face masks are comparatively ineffective at protecting the wearer from infection.

He was and is right about that. I’m about as likely to catch the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus with a mask on as without.1

I haven’t been, and won’t be, wearing a face mask to protect myself.

I’m wearing it to protect others.

Sort of like Spider-Man, Batman or the Green Hornet. (Look! There in the store! It’s a geezer! It’s an old coot! No: it’s the Masked Minnesotan!!)

And now, returning to reality —


The odds are that I haven’t been infected with the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus.

But I might have been.

My son had to miss work while experiencing a bug that acted like COVID-19.

My son wasn’t tested, maybe because Minnesota was short on testing tech at the time.

Others in the household have dealt with a similar bug and also haven’t been tested.

I could be offended by that, but figure that testing tech is still something best reserved for other cases.

Knowing whether or not we’d been infected would be interesting. But the knowledge wouldn’t have changed how we dealt with being ill.

I think there will be a COVID-19 vaccine. But the last I heard, nothing has been tested thoroughly enough for general use.

Playing the Odds

Getting back to masks and me, I wear one because there’s a slight chance I may have been infected, and might spread a sometimes-lethal disease.

I realize that face masks aren’t 100 percent effective at stopping my hypothetical viruses.

But I live in an imperfect world. I think that lowering the already-low odds that I’ll infect others is a good idea. Even if the technology I use isn’t perfect.

As I see it, good health is a gift from God. Getting and staying healthy is a good idea. Within reason. Making good health my religion is a bad idea and I shouldn’t do it. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 21122114, 22882289)

Life, the universe and everything isn’t all about me. I live with and near other folks. Working for the common good and protecting human life is a good idea. (Catechism, One/Two/Article 2 Participation in Social Life/II: The Common Good, 19281942, 22582262)

I’ve said that before. Recently. (May 23, 2020)

And I’ve been writing about living during, and I trust through, a pandemic:

1 Masks, the pandemic and protection:

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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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